1/14 Start outside CLR James Dalston Library, E8 3BQ. To celebrate Hackney’s Afro-Caribbean community this library (Dalston’s third) was named after the Caribbean journalist, political activist and historian Cyril Lionel Robert James (1901-1989). Dalston Lane is an old roadway, first mentioned in 1553, leading westwards out of the centre of Hackney via Dalston. In 1294 Dalston was recorded as Derleston: ‘tun’, meaning settlement, of Dedrlaf. In 1774 it was spelt Dorlston.
2/14 On the site of the library was built in the 1880s the Dalston Circus, with arches big enough to let elephants through. In 1898 it was rebuilt as the 3500 seater Dalston Palace of Varieties. By 1912 it was a cinema. In 1964 it became the Four Aces Club, one of the UK’s first venues playing black music: Desmond Dekker and Bob Marley performed here. In the early 1990s, as The Labrynth, it was home to the early indoor rave scene. The Prodigy launched their career here. The club closed in 1999 and the building was demolished in 2007.
3/14 Cross the road to the mural opposite which commemorates the 1985 Hackney Peace Carnival. Designed by Ray Walker, it is one of two surviving murals commissioned by the GLC. It is a relic of the Cold War era, portraying Hackney as a nuclear free zone. The musicians depict local people living in Hackney at the time.
4/14 Walk on down Dalston Lane. Note the older houses on the other side of the road. In 1807 the Rhodes family started leasing their land for building along this northern boundary of their Lamb Farm Estate. The 1959 corner building at Holly St was Dalston’s second library, replacing a library nearby in Forest Road which was destroyed by a V2 missile in January 1945. Anticipating a widening of Dalston Lane, the building was set back from the road.
5/14 Walk left down Tyssen Street. Springfield House was built in 1902 as a state-of-the-art factory for Shannon furniture makers. It had electric instead of gas lighting, central heating and not open fires, fire sprinklers and a direct phone line to Fire Station. Later the factory was taken over by Siemens. Go back to Dalston Lane and turn left.
6/14 Let the aroma of Allpress Roastery draw you to the former premises of joiners, J S Gould. This pre-war building has been allowed to survive with a different use; unlike what were Dalston’s oldest houses opposite dating from 1807. Despite a local campaign, they were demolished in 2015 and the site was redeveloped as 44 flats and shops.
7/14 Onto the junction. Opposite, at the end of Graham Road, is a building with a Red Cross sign on the side. In 1919 the Red Cross opened a clinic here providing electric and massage treatment for ex-servicemen. When that service was no longer required the clinic offered low-fee out-patient care including UV Ray treatment for local kids with rickets. Red Cross services are still run from the building.
8/14 This junction used to be called Lebon’s Corner, named for a coal merchant’s later Donaldson’s estate agents (see sign). Until Parkholme Road was laid out in 1823, Dalston Lane was the only road here. It became part of the Hackney Turnpike Trust in 1799 with a tollgate nearby. Veer left towards the centre of old Dalston.
9/14 Next to the Three Compasses pub is the 1934 premises of Nalder Brothers & Thompson, makers of electrical measuring instruments. Anticipating what was to come, it was built with an air raid shelter. Cecilia Road follows the course of what was Love Lane through the fields to Shacklewell.
10/14 As you walk on past Travis Perkins note the boundary marker between Hackney and West Hackney parishes. On the left is the early 18th century Graham House. In 1664 it was the site of the largest house in Dalston, taxed for 16 hearths (fireplaces). The Graham family bought land here in 1753; their Massie heirs developed it for housing from the late 1850s.
11/14 Further on is Lewis Place, a rebuild of 1924 housing. It is run by the Southern Housing Trust formerly the Samuel Lewis Housing Trust which was set up with £670k left on his death in 1901 by rags-to-riches Jewish philanthropist Samuel Lewis to house the poor. Before that from 1849 until 1924, it was the site of the Dalston Refuge for Destitute Women.
12/14 Next, Margetts Corner is named for Margetts jam factory which was behind. Its aromas could be smelled by the children in the school playground nearby. Down Wayland Avenue from 1732 was the Red Cow Tavern, with tea garden, bowling green and skittle alley on grounds sloping down to the Hackney Brook and the Downs beyond
13/14 On to Pembury Corner. Here until 1850s you had to cross a bridge over Hackney Brook to continue up Dalston Lane. The junction was formed when Amhurst and Pembury Roads were laid out in the 1860s. By the 1870s the full length of Dalston Lane from the start of this walk to the top of Mare Street (The Narrow Way) was built up.
14/14 The name Pembury comes from a place in Kent where Hackney’s largest landowners, the Tyssen family (later Barons Amherst of Hackney), also owned land. The Pembury Tavern has been there since 1861, built on the the former grounds, extending up to the Narrow Way, of a house built in 1710 for John Ward MP. Expelled from the House of Commons for fraud, the MP spent some time in the pillory in Palace Yard at Westminster.